Some people are go-getters and need no support or pushes to get them taking action on their dreams and curiosities.
The rest of us have to battle to get there, to show up, to try new things and to share what we eventually create and do.
Whether your hurdle is a lack of confidence, support or resources (or any number of other blocks that are holding you back) the greatest tool I have found to push me towards action is the online challenge. Over the years I have participated in many monthly or year long challenges on instagram or Facebook and each one has led me closer to what I want in life.
In April I took part in THREE at once (I really must remember that two is my limit) – I started the 100 day project which will obviously carry on beyond April (my wall hangings are at #100soulfulwallhangings on instagram), created art journal spreads for 30 days with Rae Missigman making art marks (this was my second time and I definitely grew a lot through this one), and I participated in Susannah Conway’s April Love (I usually join her for her April and December photo challenges).
While I always find kindred spirits in Susannah’s challenges it is the one I chose to let slide on days when I had too much on or the prompts did not excite me. I accepted I had taken on too much and did what I could and enjoyed meeting the people I did find.
5 benefits of online challenges:
* connection to community – if you want to find people like you (especially if you have a hard time finding them in the “real” world) online challenges bring them all together. Art marks led me to connect with loads of mixed media artists, art journalers and those who are exploring their art. April Love always leads me to heart-centred people, those sharing life lessons and being vulnerable and authentic – everything I love in the online world.
There is a challenge for almost any habit, hobby, idea you want to pursue or improve. Go out and find your people or topic and jump in.
* accountability -I always publicly declare my intentions to join in on a challenge. As soon as I write and share it I get a kick in the pants to get to work. I gather supplies or print off the prompt list. For the 100 day project it meant finally tackling something I have wanted to make for almost two years, but was afraid I could not do it well so avoided trying at all. It is a high point of my year already! Once I started people were commenting with support and love for the pieces and looking forward to my posts – even more accountability!
*inspiration – check out what others are making / sharing / saying. It will both inspire you to keep showing up and inspire you in your own work / life.
* changing perceptions and boundaries – often we limit ourselves based on past experience. Joining in on a challenge can show you what you are capable of and also see what others are trying and doing which might help you keep moving those self drawn lines that you think you can’t cross. Being involved with people from all over the world exposes you to new ideas and perspectives – I love seeing photos of other people’s worlds and the lessons they are learning.
* power of habit and working towards a daily / weekly goal – if you use all the above it feeds into habit formation. You have a free group cheering you on, a place to check in and even prompts if you need them to give you a focus and goal. By the end you develop a routine based on this daily project. You may have focused on just spending 15 minutes doing 1 thing, but by the end you have a new practice of photography or art or gratitude…
3 tips for participating in challenges:
* While it is meant to push you along a journey you actually want to be on (whether it is creating art or doing more yoga) do not freak out about missing days in the challenge. I see so many people give up once they miss a day or two because they figure they are “behind” or are embarrassed to be seen as “messing up”. Denying yourself the benefits of the other 5 – 15 – 28 days because you were imperfect is throwing away the baby with the bathwater.
Look at the challenges as helpers rather than a burden. They can move you forward and isn’t it better to show up 15 times than none? and many challenges reset each month with a new theme or prompts so you can see your own improvement either in how often you show up or the quality of what you do.
* Check in on the provided hashtag regularly (and remember to use it on all your relevant posts) This is the community aspect and inspiration source as well. You gain a lot from both checking out what others are doing and also from the conversations that develop. Participating alone will take you a certain distance which may be fine for you, but you would miss out on a lot if you just did it all in a bubble. Click like, comment, ask questions or simply offer support where you can.
* Find you own way and what works for you – sometimes I prep things in bulk to make life easier (I have 2 kids, 2 dogs, a husband and house all on top of my own needs…), sometimes I do two days in one go (to get ahead or catch up – life does not know i have a challenge on), how can you adapt it to make it easier to actually show up? There are no challenge police who will call you out for taking a photo on Wednesday while there is good light instead of Friday when rain is on the forecast.
I adore online challenges – how about you? Have you participated in any or run them yourself?
Is there something you want to work on and need a way to get started – look for one now and if you find a May one you like just jump in. Don’t tell yourself “oh I have missed a few days. I am too late.” Just jump in today and if you like you can catch up, but don’t feel like you have to.
love and light